Online literature shop

Why is there no place on the Web where I can get modern novels, like I can get modern music? There are online shops like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but they sell the physical, printed books. There is the Project Gutenberg, but, unfortunately, it only has “old” literature (of which the copyright has expired). There is no shop that sells me a book for € 0.99, the way Apple's Music Store or sell songs, i.e., in digital form and immediately downloadable.

Last Friday night, I decided to go see a play that would be performed that Sunday afternoon. The play is Ionesco's “Les chaises.” It is a somewhat special play, so I wanted to prepare myself, by reading it beforehand. Unfortunately, all stores were already closed. And it so happened that Saturday was a holiday and all book shops were closed as well. And since the play was only written 50 years ago, it isn't yet available in Project Gutenberg.

I like to have real books, they are easier to read than a computer screen, lighter, sturdier, and they last several life times with negligible maintenance. But sometimes it is good to have the electronic version: you can do things with it you can't do with the paper one, such as make a copy quickly, search in it, do statistics on it, cut and paste from it or reformat it.

I would have been willing to pay, say, € 0.99 for the electronic copy. (Although there is still no good way to pay small amounts on-line: where is the system that allows me to send somebody money by e-mail or in an HTML form, without an expensive bank in the middle? But that is a different subject.) But I can't. The text simply isn't available.

Bert Bos <bert at>
Created: 2 May 2004